6 Best Practices for Managing Remote Teams
February 5, 2020
Jill Garrison
Timer  Read Time: 8 minutes

Remote work is gaining huge popularity right now, and it’s only projected to get bigger. In fact, remote jobs grew 151% in 2018 alone!

But is working remotely really that better than working from an office? The short answer, for many, is—YES.

Various studies have proved that remote work improves employee satisfaction and retention while also saving companies valuable time and money. But how exactly do successful teams manage the common challenges that come with remote work?

In this article, we’ll briefly chat about the benefits and challenges of remote work before diving right in to my top six tips for managing remote teams. Let’s get started!

The Benefits of Remote Work

Remote work can be beneficial for both employees and employers. Let’s explore a few of the top reasons companies are embracing remote workers.

Embrace a Flexible Schedule

Sitting in my pajamas, I am writing this article at 7 a.m. from the comfort of home. Yes, I work remotely and get to choose when, where and how I want to work.

The biggest benefit of remote work for an employee is flexibility. Depending on your organization, it could allow night owls to work non-traditional hours; it could allow globe-trotters to travel the world while working shifted hours; it could allow parents to have a better work/life balance.

For me, working remotely makes it easier to pick up kids from school, visit the doctor as needed during work hours, and hit the gym whenever I want (see also: work/life balance—whatever that means for you). All your employees need is a laptop and a good internet connection.

Save Time and Increase Productivity

An average American spends 9 days a year commuting to work. It’s even worse in densely populated countries such as India, where people spend 22 day on the road in a year.

Remote work saves commute time as it eliminates the need to go to the office.

At the same time, remote workers are more productive than office workers as there can be fewer distractions when working from home – fewer team meetings and fewer colleagues asking questions or stopping by for a ‘quick chat’.

Imagine the time you could save and the huge productivity boost you can get just by implementing remote work at your organization.

Save Money

It can be far cheaper to run a remote organization than running a traditional office team. Just think about it…

When your team is fully remote, you DON’T need to:

  • Pay office rent or utility fees
  • Buy office essentials such as furniture, paper and supplies
  • Implement servers and network infrastructure

According to Global Workplace Analytics, if a company allows employees to work from home just half the time, they can save $11,000 per employee per year. You just need to make sure that all your employees have a laptop, a stable internet connection, and have the right tools to communicate with each other.

Hire the Best Talent from Across the Globe and Increase Diversity

Talent. That’s the one thing that determines the success or failure of a company.

In a traditional office setup, most of the talent is hired locally as not every potential hire is willing to relocate. This makes employers lose out on great potential employees located in other cities.

Hiring remote workers has no restrictions when it comes to the location.

Found an amazing software developer sitting somewhere in Asia? Great! No need to worry about relocation and immigration. Hire them remotely and make sure you have the right processes and tools to communicate seamlessly.

Expanding your talent pool to workers across the globe also has another benefit—diversity.

“Monocultures are dangerous, and hiring people from different locations naturally helps you avoid them by giving you a huge injection of diversity,” GitHub told Remote.co. “When your teams have a wide range of cultural perspectives to draw from when approaching problems, your company will do a much better job of navigating challenges.”

Improve Employee Retention

According to Business Insider, remote employees are happier and stay in their jobs longer.

Working from home lets employees manage their own schedule and create a better work/life balance. This directly improves their mood, increases their productivity and makes them more loyal to their jobs. Gartner found that remote work can increase retention by up to 10%!

What could you accomplish with a 10% bump in retention?

Challenges with Remote Teams

Although working remotely is great, there are certain challenges in implementing and managing remote teams.

Communication and Collaboration Issues

When working from an office, you can easily approach colleagues and interact with them face-to-face. You can have lunch with them, and even hang out with them after work.

Since employees are not in the same location, this kind of close interaction becomes difficult with remote teams.

But this problem has largely been addressed with the advent of new-age communication tools such as Google Hangouts, Skype and Chanty. Using these tools, you can interact with colleagues over chat and video and be in touch with them in real-time.

At the same time, it might become difficult to collaborate on the same project with team members when working from different locations. Consider dedicated collaboration tools such as Dropbox, OneDrive, GSuite and Github to address collaboration challenges.

Project Management Issues

In remote teams, it sometimes becomes difficult to assign tasks to each team member, set goals and track the progress.

Thankfully, there are specific tools to address this issue. Task management software such as Jira, Asana, Trello, and Basecamp come to the rescue.

Jira is specifically used by software development teams to track bugs and issues. Asana and Basecamp are used by all types of teams to assign tasks, set deadlines, track progress, and chat with colleagues.

Time Tracking Issues

Time tracking is particularly used by freelancers and consultants who bill by the hour. They need to track the number of hours worked in a month and bill clients accordingly.

Tracking time doesn’t seem difficult in an office setting. But how do you track time for remote workers?

Fortunately, there are time tracking tools such as Hivedesk and Toggle specifically made for remote teams. These tools let you track time, capture screenshots and send a report to clients to understand how long each employee has worked in a day.

Best Practices for Managing Remote Teams

Now that we’ve outlined some of the pros and cons of remote workers, let’s dive into a few best practices for managing remote teams.

1.) Use the right communication tools

Remote work has become much easier these days because of technology. But there can still be occasional hiccups with regards to communication. Use reliable and easy-to-use tools to ensure everyone is up and running quickly.

Some of my recommendations include Zoom (for video conferencing), Chanty (for team chat), and Trello or Asana (for project management).

2.) Ensure that your team is communicating frequently

Since everyone is in a different location, it’s easy for some members to not have full clarity on individual and team goals.

For this reason, it is always better to communicate frequently and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Here are a few suggestions to improve communication:

  • Use several modes of communication – chat, email and video
  • Encourage employees to document everything
  • Schedule 1-to-1 meeting with every team member at least once a week
  • Ask employees to use their camera while on video calls

3.) Focus on results (and not the number of hours worked)

  • It doesn’t matter if your remote software engineer works 5 hours a day or 10. All that matters is whether he or she is producing the desired results.

People choose remote work for a variety of reasons–flexibility, save time on commuting, being with their family. One reason they definitely don’t choose to work remotely is to be micromanaged by their boss.

I understand that sometimes it becomes difficult to check on remote employees and see if they are working or not.

But instead of tracking time, track results. Instead of asking someone to work for 8 hours a day, assign them a target and get a status update at the end of the day.

Trust me, focusing on results works much better when managing remote workers (or any type of workers, really).

4.) Set defined tasks for everyone

In a remote setup, it’s easy for employees to get lost  when they are assigned vague tasks without any deadlines.

To resolve this, allocate defined tasks for everyone and track the progress regularly with the help of project management tools. Be as specific as possible with tasks and set deadlines to monitor progress and keep projects on track.

5.) Have team retreats

Remote team retreats can be one of the best ways for colleagues to know each other. They are fun, full of activity and help everyone bond together.

Team retreats are very much needed for remote teams as they don’t get to meet in-person.

There are 2 major uses of team retreats

  • To get everyone on the same page
  • To build relationships

I LOVE Close.com’s company retreats. They are a fully remote team of 80 members and have had retreats in Dublin and Lisbon. Check out their Lisbon video below.

6.) And finally, don’t forget to have fun!

One potential side effect of working remotely? It’s easy to start overworking. Seriously, overworking is very common among remote teams, the reason being a lack of distinction between work and non-work timings.

The best way to overcome this issue is to have employees work fixed time-slots every day. This doesn’t have to be ‘traditional’ work hours, but rather a set cadence of hours worked. Working consistent hours also helps streamline communication with colleagues as everyone is aware of everyone else’s work schedule.

Working remotely is a wonderful opportunity. Don’t forget to encourage your remote employees to spend time with family, manage their personal wellness, travel the world and do the things they have always wanted to do but couldn’t because of the limitations of traditional work.

Is Remote Work Right for Your Team?

As much as we support and encourage remote work, the truth is that it is not a great fit for every organization.

I strongly encourage you to implement remote work at your organization only IF you think it is a good fit for your company.

There are downsides to remote work, just like any other thing in life. But you can overcome many of them with the tips and tricks I have mentioned in this article.

As you might be aware, remote work is the future of work since it is beneficial to employers and employees alike.

For employees, remote work offers greater flexibility, improves productivity and increases overall job satisfaction. And for employers, it increases employee retention, offers access to a far bigger talent pool and saves money.

Are you on the fence about implementing remote work at your company? What’s holding you back?

Gokul Kailasam is a content writer at Chanty – a simple AI-powered team chat. Gokul is a startup enthusiast with 5+ years of experience working with tech startups. When he’s not writing for tech companies, he enjoys exploring new food, swimming and traveling.

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